All over the world the revolution against plastic was on the rise, people were finally getting on board the idea of not using single-use plastics, becoming mindful of the necessity to reduce it and even companies were going for more sustainable alternatives. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit the world and now, we are running the risk of erasing every progress we made in reducing plastic as the economic pressure pushes us to square one.

"The sustainability debate has been parked for the year," said Rob Gilfillan, a packaging expert with the energy research company Wood Mackenzie. Regulations concerning the use of plastic have been retracted and reduction in the price of new plastic is steadily deleting whatever little triumph we have achieved over the years. 

Before the pandemic, some brands and retailers were starting to use less plastic packaging or were resorting to more sustainable options, while fresh items were made available in loose without packaging.

The hardest hit in this entire equation is the recycling industry that is in dire need of making a profit so as to reprocess used plastic and selling it as a commodity to companies that need plastic to make something. But it’s one raw material, oil has been steadily witnessing a dip in its prices, making it hard for the recycling industry to stay afloat when the new "virgin" plastic is becoming cheaper to buy than recycled plastic.

The current bleak scenario of the economy has "created a base for brands or consumers to not be as focused on those environmental goals and really just to focus on whatever's cheaper," said Eadaoin Quinn, director of business development and procurement at EFS Plastics, a recycler with facilities in Listowel, Ontario, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Another proof that we are going backward instead of forward in removing the use of plastic is the fact that countries are removing the ban single-use plastic, as there exist sanitary concerns over the usage of reusable bags. As soon as the ban was lifted, "manufacturers went straight back to virgin plastic literally overnight," Quinn said.

Such unfortunate but necessary decisions and the subsequent behavior of manufacturers and consumer alike doesn’t bode well. 

plastic-bottles-388679_1280 Plastic waste returned by Malaysia Pixabay